“This is the story of how my town, Salem, lost its motherfucking mind…”
Writer-director Sam Levinson’s brazen and unruly modern take on the witch trials is what would happen if Harmony Korine and Bret Easton Ellis teamed up to rewrite Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Using the Salem setting to create a propitious commentary on how little things have changed, Levinson follows a group of four friends as they witness how they’re placed at the epicentre of their town’s primal anger when everyone’s private online information is hacked.
Assassination Nation is far from subtle, least of all in its revenge fantasy, Purge-like third act. Its dedication to its smash-the-patriarchy message is both admirable and clunky, with the pulls-no-punches script often dipping into sermonizing territory. It talks the talk but occasionally shoots itself in the foot in its determination to assert itself as feminist with a capital ‘F’. That said, its ambition is never in doubt and it works as a darkly comedic genre mongrel that taps into contemporary fears and has American two-faced puritanism squarely in its visor. It also highlights the disillusionment of the Instagram generation who have to be “#blessed, because the whole world is always watching”, who are clued-in to the artifice of teenage politics, as well as the snap judgements and multiple identities that go avatar-hand in avatar-hand with social media. So, while its reach at times exceeds its grasp, its righteous and furious satirical bite is always entertaining, as well as depressingly timely.
Assassination Nation | Directed by Sam Levinson (US, 2018), with Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, Bill Skarsgård. Starts November 15.
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